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tv   After Words  CSPAN  November 18, 2013 12:00am-1:01am EST

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>> i am so glad to -- glad to interview you for the book as say told you before it was a very interesting and thought-provoking book canada and say that lightly but it definitely had a lot of the motion standing your a and a sad this it basically ran the whole gamut so start by telling us how did you come up with the idea for the book? >> i am delighted proud of your response there is nothing like it out there as they sit answer the question
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that criminal defense lawyers the first to as the cocktail party question or the question. to have assembled such schaede diverse crowd to range in age 28 to 85 the idea to have the different voices talking about criminal law by co-editor and i co-authored a book on legal ethics. fat was interesting project but not nearly as stunned or timeless the there is always some big case so the two of us were talking about the work that we both do. we're both academics i
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consider myself as takeover defense lawyer and there was a period of time he was actively involved of the american board of criminal lawyers in the word of where their letter at on dash there was a market to put people to do gather one of the great things it is a has a personal voice to it. , as stories about the clients that were represented i know there are 15 different authors but you tell us about those in the book. >> with me is vida johnson and her chapter, her favorite, of my favorite she can talk about a but her
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grandparents who were civil -- civil-rights activists had on the career path. including barbara babcock who i think of as the dean of criminal defenders she wrote the classic piece called defending the guilty that is more than 30 years old and she writes and a new interesting updated take she gets the question and "how can you represent those people?" from her hair dresser even her oncologist. i think -- i thought that was a great line. representing in the high-profile controversial defendants who has his own typically a renaissance man
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and writes about his representation with the oakland city -- oklahoma city bombing case and also with the guantanamo detainee , as the essay discussion of criminal defense since september 11 and what the policies were before and after that the event. make in shapiro is another co-author and talks about defending people on death row there is a very strong essay that's talks about the clients' families and the lawyers because you have to take a part of life then put it back together how layperson could do something so horrible that is the worst punishment abolished
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death by a execution. running the innocence project at old mess talks about the public defender service and writes a primary -- a premier as a and writes a story of a woman who tries to santa mail to take the plea and thought it was complete sheer craziness true go to trial contrary to his device a jury finds her not guilty. others come to mind but although those accused of the crime davis' single sin a former public defender in new york and washington d.c. also litigation with the policy center writes a
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wonderful essay about his efforts on behalf of sex offenders that he does not like because it is such a label of those convicted but he took on the states of ohio the sex offender registration was while running a fledgling donation funded organization and that is a tale with the powers that be and a strong case how how we get about certain kinds of crimes when they're really bad crime happens we do misguided thing is one of the points he makes is our policies and practices with regard to people of sexual offenses makes them more dangerous. we isolate, marginalized, we don't let them reintegrate so they become more dangerous that is a smart thing to share but he has a
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personal place how you could represent people who do hideous things. >> host: i wanted to explain that more because just the compilation of people is so interesting to read their perspective be cozened my pointed you gave for not doing the same type of representation and we will talk about the issues but the problems of this system that they are all the same. teeeighteen tell us about your background and how you came to represent your clients. >> guest: i am so pleased that abbe smith included me in the book but i was inspired by my grandfather's legacy as a civil rights advocate came of age in the
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'60s in mississippi with the naacp and voters league and they were -- he was targeted before i was born and then i went to law school i started to look into lew the law and wanted to practice working on a class-action peace that was my first real exposure to the criminal-justice system and i saw a lot of parallels pacific cisco is less than 5% of the population by yet of majority of clients were black and ran the gamut with
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those with serious offenses working on behalf of clients at every stage of felony i was inspired to do this kind of work and spent time at a clinic in moscow as a defender clinic and almost every single one of the clients was is african american with the most petty offenses you could kick a soccer ball at a police officer and snowballs being thrown kids being charged with assault with a dangerous weapon there are things that stuck out kids that put the egg get into fights at school, and the police were called. so to see the way the criminal justice system unfairly targets people of color and poor people
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inspired me. >> host: there were several takeaways that in essence one of the civil rights problem that we have is that i was struck by one of the stories of a woman who is charged with prostitution for giving a blow job to the undercover police officer for a chicken in exchange because she was hungry and that was causing problems. suggest of those that were listening i was also struck the there are more black men in the jail of the criminal-justice system
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waiting for child a and in slavery in 1850 and that is staggering because that puts it into perspective with mass incarceration talking to people that are more conservative will say to black people commit more crimes in to speak and how do we get there what are some of the policy issues with a more just system? >> the statistics one at a three african-american babies born today are destined for jael -- jail if massive restoration continues. the human rights issue of our time looking at the jail and prison and what it is like and i think if you hear
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people say african-americans our more likely to commit crimes it is unfair of the neighborhoods are targeted with drug use african-americans our less likely to use and abuse illegal substances and the chances of them going to prison or jail to commit those offenses is so a disproportionate so there is something that i hope makes people step back. >> host: i know eric holder is trying to do do something for the non-violent drug cases but beyond that is there anything else you can do? to represent people on a
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day-to-day basis in the past that only assist the system but nothing to change the system. >> guest: that is a fair question. and sometimes we are asked are you really affecting social change by defending the poor people accused of crime? i share the view that criminal defense is social justice work can human rights work of our time because with the individual representation you make a difference in the individual life and cast some light on a terrible problem in those since the trenches every day something passed to give a progress with like to be optimistic i was glad that
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eric holder would speak out i wish he would do it sooner but i hope attorneys around the country are doing what he suggests they do now with a quantity of drugs with a criminal charging documents with some flexibility in sentencing because it is so harsh. but we are misguided and we often hear people talk about relatively few people who have committed non-violent that we keep people in prison way too long. people commit crimes for a host of reasons but others are in a bad moment and out of rage or impulse there is a reason young people the
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braves are not fully formed jack to control the impulses but in a moment of a loss of control we spent gobs of money but we are all liars with no other country that resembles to lock people up as long us time and it is crazy it is 50 years later and every five years there is a celebration remarks the
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occasion was what we have never fully funded criminal defense that there is rich people's justice or four peoples but if we cannot afford it said stop prosecuting for silly crimes and treat some things as public health problems truly divert them to see if i cannot reintegrate to put our money where it should be in the district of columbia right now some neighborhoods we don't see young black men is staggering just like the bronx one added to young african-american men are innocent and locked up for on probation and it seems to
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be so misguided set of policies. >> guest. >> host: even when i've prosecuted i was never added juvenile but why am i prosecuting the guy that stole the during? you have to start somewhere but those questions were in my mind why are we did court? just like the woman who is the person that does the of low job -- if the blow job but in terms of what it you spoke briefly about to walk -- lock people up and throw
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away the key that this saying is if you do the crime then do the time but sometimes the time pass to end not giving away everything but tell us about those because it shows in real life the shawshank redemption. >> serving incredibly long sentences the childish impulse expelled from school afraid of his father's reaction city tickets centers for hunting rifle to scare the woman to get the car keys to get away so his father would not beat him if he had never been in trouble.
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not to the system she said no or maybe laughed and he shot her. 45 years old now and in prison since he was 16 he looks like a 45 year-old 16 year-old. something that will forever be 16. i have no doubt he poses no risk of harm it is deeply remorseful and ashamed but does not want to die in prison. coping with a piece of hope it would be free but a woman convicted of killing her baby she has no memory she denied it and went to trial. i have no idea what happened but it is surprising in other major associate if she
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did such a thing to have no memory that is terribly traumatic whatever the circumstances but meanwhile she was supposed to serve 20 years of the judges very explicit not 253 years she now serve 28 years the parole system is not letting her out a model prisoner works in the chaplain's office, she is well kept general that have any more babies. i don't get it. they are not popular necessarily but with the anti-crime coulter politics but somebody needs to let the people out eventually it
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is a revolving door shovelling people in then they get out for a second then they are bad kids why? they are not good at following rules are well organized all of the busy lives it is hard enough to say i cannot control my schedule it is not easy then go to new drug treatment or a and your manager if they miss an appointment if they don't have the us money they are in violation for the technical violations getting frustrated than returning to drugs or alcohol and that is a misguided as wall. >> what are some of the good of bad and ugly circumstances and some
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examples we can relate to? >> now i work in a clinic with abbe smith pc people charged with minor crimes 79% of crimes are misdemeanors so over and over uc and absence of substance abuse treatment that would have prevented people from ever entering into the criminal-justice system in the first place and it is shameful you have to be arrested to have access to those services.
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we save a lot of money to incarcerate but that on average spending $40,000 per year to incarcerate and drug treatment and mental health treatment could solve those problems but time and time again uc petty offenses prosecuted where at one was prosecuted for stealing a birthday card for his little brother. these sorts of things are happening all across the country. 87 it is sad where basically we've run a court system on the misdemeanor. that is a good point the majority of cases in the system are the misdemeanors it is the view in the real
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world we have to keep the murders and killers that is a letter shown in the media so they are not thinking about the kid who wants the birthday card. we don't think about that. so what are the more rewarding things? >> with representing a human being is that could be rewarding standing up next to someone sometimes that can be its own reward to not have any other support. in those in the middle to be an advocate that is
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priceless. the is said experience to hear the words not to killed he is every defense attorney favorite thing. >> host: also some with the clients have oftentimes not even in their family is there in the courtroom with them because of all the issues of a family that was there to support them that brings out the point what we need is noncriminal intervention had does that look like that track politically it is another topic. >> we could focus the resources elsewhere we would
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save money and be in a safer country. >> guest: we can all get up on our soapbox and these days that is the motivation for young people but what i'd really like about the book is the personal stories of actual people that we represent angela davis tells a story about representing a juvenile with a record of offenses and is going away. he will get juvenile life and she comes up with a creative defense because he is already in the adult system so tries to use a provision that is like with no record in the interest of justice the judge does not
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buy that and she tells the story of losing and your client says he was sent away to an institution and goes into the bathroom and cries then she comes out and encounters the client's mother who comforts her. he will be okay. hit is true of committed defenders we take it to heart and i thank you have to have that personality that is open to connect with other people no matter what we have all been there when you fight hard for someone they know it. that is a beautiful thing because we don't win it all the time to have a client
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who understands how hard you work it is so rewarding. >> but what brought me back not as a defense attorney but former prosecutor is i had a capital punishment case i did not try but i was part of closing arguments the defense attorney was talking it was a retrial he was saying during the first trial when it came back with a sentence of death for his client he could not keep it together so he would return in court and cried and his client laughed at that particular moment. now during their retrial the client who was speaking for his life and he told the story how much he had changed back to their respective new wing how much
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his public defender had done for him. sometimes there it is more evil ocean for the attorney at that time. >> guest: also there are other stories of our clients comforting us. for those that are accused or convicted of the crime. . .
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and the door shut behind me i have a feeling like i'm really lucky. and i think this teaches a kind of humility. there is another kind of humility and teaches which is it's true we don't win all the time. you become kind of a gracious loser i suppose. there's a kind of -- it's humbling because no matter how skilled or devoted you are there is a randomness to justice that can sometimes shake your sole. that's the other thing i learn
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all the time how difficult and challenging it is and how pervasive the justice can be. the role that we sometimes play because we have big personalities. i think it is humbling and lots of ways. i have a window and i think our students to get this. what a privilege it is to be invited into another person's life at their very worst moment they let us in and that's really where you wording and i learned a lot about myself. >> host: they were toiling
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away they put in those long hours on their behalf. these mandatory maximum minimum sentences and incredibly long sentences with a toll those are taking and seeing the criminal justice system is now the system of please rather than the 95% of the case is resolved by the guilty plea and that is largely due to these incredibly punitive maximum sentences and mandatory minimum sentences in addition to statutes more people are presumed innocent and often detained prior to trial to go back to their families and their jobs and that's something that i really wasn't aware of.
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i've been lucky to practice in the ec but it doesn't have a statute doing this work and seeing what it's like in other places. >> host: there's a great scene in the movie justice for all in which al pacino says to his uncaring colleague he says they are just people. i often feel like some are incredibly smart and creative and some have crete leadership skills. other people have been tossed around in life but there are fewer of my clients than i have disliked for example people are just people. and that's something to remember and unfortunately we don't think
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about that. in the culture we think we are about to become a victim. we never think until somebody close to us gets arrested for something they did or didn't do. it's a mistake. people make mistakes. >> host: your book brought back so many things but as a former prosecutor i hadn't represented a lot of but one that i did i told you earlier i represented a gentleman that was accused and did plead guilty to a sex offense charge against two young girls but when the family really wanted me to take one to ks and for some reason i couldn't convince them that i didn't think i was the person to take on the case but it kept coming back to me i had a different point of view i admit as a former prosecutor by the
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end of the day it went through the case longer but at the end of the day when i was actually standing up with him as he was getting his sentence i have learned so much about him it seems very simple and trite that people are people and that they do make mistakes. that is one of the things that does come out. >> i got to know him and his family. the one that you're talking about in the story i got to know his family, his sisters. one was a schoolteacher, the other was a schoolteacher. i got to interface with him a lot because he was in the system in maryland and baltimore. he wasn't on a noble status by you want a pretty high bail and it comes down to what it does in
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the system. do we really want to get you out or do you want to pay an attorney? it's one way or the other you don't have money for both. but over time by just visiting him and talking with his employer who basically told the court he would take him back to court if they didn't give him a sentence. i got to learn by talking to other people and finding out there was a back story he was working at the same job for ten or 12 years and i don't recall now with the job was that he was working at the same job and he was a supervisor and everybody knew what he did and he still would have taken him back so that is basically the things that you are talking about in the book, showing their humanity and the other side of the story and there's a lot of those. >> so many of the clients have
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been victims of abuse and again with adequate services when they were kids they might not have better then the system. that is something we need to focus on as a community. >> guest: david writes about people convicted. when we've done a couple of book e events he does a beautiful job of explaining when you are a lawyer and you are called upon to represent somebody charged with a controversy or unpopular crime and you have a feeling that everybody hates them and then there you are in their room with them or any kind of jail or prison visiting room, you just can't judge them. you realize everybody else is judging and is full of hatred and here is this person.
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i think that's real for the lawyers. you have to deal to do that and kind of grapple with the conduct for most of us the client becomes the bigger figure. angela davis does a nice job of saying when we are in the trial there are so many things to think about in this terrible injustice if you believe your client is actually innocent and she said with the did it or not there is no room in my brain under those circumstances. >> host: talk about a client's you represent and i am so bad on names i don't remember but there is one person in the book that represented crimes in guantanamo bay and that whole terrorist
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situation is a whole nother ball game. so how has 9/11 change and what's going on so that we have a backdrop the presence in guantanamo bay and that is the one that made me feel pingree and sad and the emotions one can possibly feel in terms of what was being done. >> he is a brilliant writer and very smart about the politics. he kind of captures the history of our approach which used to be much more enlightening. there was a time during the new deal when you said the we recognize the people sometimes make mistakes and you have to discharge your debt to society and maybe that should be it. you should be able to kind of
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remake your life and try again. there was a time and he attributes it first to the nixon administration and the reagan administration that there was much more than us and them and we wanted it to be as far away from possible as us as if there is a clear line somehow. but he talks about the post 9/11 qaeda of criminal justice environment as those folks alleged terrorists as the new people we should be afraid of and they are going to put us as far away as possible on the island can't lock them up forever with no end in sight. most haven't even really been before ending sort of meaningful tribunal.
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but he tells a very personal story about the client that was made and i think that he tells it well because it is easy to relate to this particular client that you move to australia and get married and have children and like many people when they start to have children he became more religious and i thought that is a great way to describe it because that is when suddenly we are back in our church or synagogue and kids have to go to high school. he said they became more religious and wanted to explore perhaps moving back to a more religious country like afghanistan to get more schooling and get swept up and a bunch of the rest was taken and tortured and eventually it turned out he was absolutely
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factually innocent but he talks about his own journey with his client and what it was like to try to have a happy ending but most of those stories don't. >> host: as best they have the ending as they were able to get out and resume their life with their wife and their family but most are still just sitting there. money and the system. i know there have been cut back and the public defendant service and layoffs in the system that i was more familiar with. they were always working on a shoestring budget and there was always a problem there. is there true justice where there really isn't enough resources beyond and your office
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and clinics that the need to adequately represent people. i'm assuming you don't have the most recent resources where they could get money collected and therefore he was able to have animation and experts and anything they were able to do. >> guest: unlike george zimmerman the margins of the country and that folks spend a lot of time thinking about poor people and mentally ill people, people of color who just don't have access to those kinds of resources and then when you add to that there is a crisis in the defense and the public defender asks their woefully underfunded
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and the half 400 cases at a time and they can't know the fact of all of their cases and their clients' names, they have guidelines for how many cases the public defender offices should carry. most offices don't meet those standards. and the lawyer has something like six hours under the standards to go to the jail and interview their clients multiple times and spent time with their families and learn things, filed motions, advocate and the trial itself it's not going to be a good outcome so that is a huge
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problem in our system and something that should scare people. when you think about the number of convictions you have in the country certainly the fact that defense lawyers are underfunded as one of the reasons. >> guest: the sequester has had an impact. most people don't realize that it is actually a kind of exemplary indigent defense system because it has been properly funded. but the federal defender offices across the country are laying off lawyers and it's shameful. >> the department of justice was going to be under -- the department justice, for those who don't know, they have the attorney's office. they were seen as too important to the fund. so meanwhile, the attorney's office across that country as well was the public defenders and the district of columbia and
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a number of lawyers they are facing sequesters they are not facing these furloughs and cuts in their the budget and resources and it's pretty embarrassing so something that really needs to be rectified before there's a huge toll to defendant's. something that will cost more money and we have to appoint attorneys the cost more in for public defenders than the amount of money that per case >> guest: we do care and our country that there is a fair fight and that the system seems fair. it's somebody that happens to be poor. more and more people in this country are grown and a divided
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between rich and poor. but the fairness part i think should matter more than it does. >> guest: that is an interesting point that i didn't know about the sequester. some meanwhile there is going to be more prosecution brought against people and more funds to defend against them. there is clearly something wrong with that. >> host: and you touched on a little of the mentally ill and i know that there is a definite issue and a problem not just those that are judged to be incompetent or mentally ill in the eyes of the law but those that have personality disorders where the law doesn't quite recognize them as it could help. have you had any experience
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either one of you with those that have mental challenges and how that plays out? >> guest: this is an area that we need more training on behalf of law enforcement. we have represented folks who have done things that are clearly delusional like going into a hotel claiming to be the owner and then the person is prosecuted for all unlawful entry. we have seen this where people go places they shouldn't go and you get an order to stay away from that place because they are mentally ill and don't understand and then they go back and the orchards to come to their five times more people than person with mental illness than in the mental health institutions and that's something that we really need to focus on as a country. >> i thought about a case as you were talking about what happened in virginia to beat as a young
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man that is probably 18 or 20 this is maybe about two or three years ago and he had -- he's autistic and maybe had a form of aspergers. she was waiting to go in the library because that is what he basically did every day and for whatever reason i think that it was a holiday and the library was closed so he wasn't able to go in but he didn't know that so he is just sitting there, african-american, probably larger in size. police man comes over to him and because he does have mental challenges and the policeman is trying to solicit information about him why is he just hanging around here, he goes ballistic and he, in the words of the law, he assaults the police officer and try as you must they were not able to get any resolution.
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so he is in jail. he got convicted. and she cannot sit within the categories that you need to in order to be at indicated and competent so he ends up being in jail and charged with assaulting a police officer and those are the cases where we need to be putting more resources and because he just didn't understand when the police officer touched him on the shoulder what that meant. of the fairness of the system and i think that for anyone whether you are criminal defense or whatever, and he would have to be a moron to know the system isn't that fair. what are some of the other challenges in terms of getting a fair trial? >> guest: that is a fair
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question. there's the question of resurfacing on both sides and i think that would be an important first step. i don't know. that is a big question. i think that there's probably a lot of different things we need to do. >> i love how you pose the question because i agree you have to be kind of a moron or not paying attention. as my husband would say if you are not outraged, you are not paying attention. it's one of the first things students do when they spend time in a criminal court house. the hon fairness in terms of race and class is so vivid university a white person in the d.c. superior court accept every once in awhile a person trying to buy drugs is called the system. otherwise it doesn't reflect a demographic of the city. there is something wrong with that. but likewise, the houses of
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justice or injustice for poor people there something that feels of harry and not right about that. it's not that incidentally they are big fans of crime. we don't celebrate the criminal offenses the clients commit. we have the same feelings as anyone else and worry about certain kinds of crime and what not paid by you go to the courthouses and it's the land of the poor. of fairness though you watch the calendar in a large urban court house and see how very little time is given to each case and sometimes they are subtle and sometimes not so subtle. from a lawyer's perspective i think one of the things lawyers have to be able to do is predict
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and have a kind of judgment is that the sand for the outcomes? but as often as not, that is a hard thing because you sometimes cannot predict the things that happen in court and the randomness of the witness' testimony of judges or juries. so there's a kind of unfairness in that and i don't know if i am making that clear because their randomness is the problem. the case at least in my recollection can depend on what prosecuting, former prosecutors but they can defend on what prosecuting you get, what judge you get, what police officer that signed on the case. was it a police officer that wanted to give you a break and if it's not one that wants to give you a break you are just toast on that and that seems to be the problem even with going
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into visiting the jail where the crime is there a. arthu going to deal to make it through the metal detector or not make it through the metal detector? there are so many random things that happen that just don't seem to be there on the side of prosecution. >> the contributors to the book are excellent lawyers the reality is sometimes they are ashamed of some of my colleagues in the criminal defense who do not provide that kind of representation. it will be somebody tapping me on the shoulder and asking me are you so and so, do you know who my lawyer is? can you imagine. not even knowing who your lawyer was. it is a foreign language for the lawyers and judges to be the
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people have no idea how to navigate and then they don't even know who their lawyer is. >> guest: one thing i will say that adds to that general on the fairness is the manufacturing crime a lot of police departments do undercover stings. the target certain communities so on undercover, prostitution stings or they try to solicit prostitution and undercover stings like robbery's and things that have a fake by or police officer with an iphone to see who tries to get it and those type of things. but also adds a love all of randomness and sort of the votes resources to cases. >> host: we like to close on a
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positive mode. so for both of you in a few minutes we have left what advice would you give to young lawyers who are going to be going into the field or a field -- think they want to go in the field, you don't want to give them the bad stuff. so leaving on a positive note -- happy well adjusted people. we love our work and feel privileged. go ahead. >> guest: all these things we've talked about better sort of depressing sad statistics i think should be inspiring because it gives them something to fight for. but i don't think there is any job that is more exciting than this job. there's never a dull moment reappointing your life where you are thinking i tell people you can't make up these stories. the fried chicken story, we had
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a case in court where the judge already signed the document before the young lawyer was even done with her closing. you just can't make these stories up. he will never be bored. i promise that. >> one of my favorite stories is a young lawyer in his closing argument as he is beginning to get a closing argument he hears a sound behind him and it is his client emptying out his cash because he knows that he's going down. it's sad but pretty much all of the contributors are truly lifelong criminal defense lawyers. a couple our career public defenders and the right really moving about why they still have a job for the work to a death penalty lawyer writes movingly about why shall do this forever. the reality is it's not for everyone but if you feel you have the making of a criminal defense lawyer you will not have
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a more meaningful career. and so that is the beginning. everyone should get how can you represent those people. thank you. >> that was "after words," book tv signature program of which authors of the latest nonfiction books were interviewed by journalists, public policy makers, legislators and others familiar with their material. "after words" airs every weekend on book tv at 10 p.m. on saturday, 12 p.m. and 9 a.m. on sunday at 12 a.m. on monday. you can also watch online. go to and click on "after words" in the book tv series topics list on the upper right side of the page.
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